Are you forming an intentional community?

The word kula is loaded with meaning. One of the coolest definitions though, comes from the Sanskrit language and it means ‘intentional community’. Along with the kula ring and kula partners, it’s a part of why we chose the name for our company. It’s got everything to do with our philosophy about connecting people to one another.

This past weekend, I finally had the opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to try my entire life. I went skydiving at the Atlantic School of Skydiving in Waterville, Nova Scotia. We arrived at the airstrip a little early and proceeded to spend a few hours basically wandering around wondering when I’d get to suit up and do my jump. The thing that was interesting is that there’s almost a surf culture around skydiving. There were a whole bunch of ‘regulars’ milling about, emerging from trailers and walking out of the woods with sleeping bags. Very few took the time to acknowledge us. Most of them were in their twenties, and I recognized the glint in their eyes from my days of downhill racing mountain bikes. You could tell that they all shared an experience that we simply weren’t a part of (having three small kids in tow is an easy way to stand out at a skydiving school, fyi). There’s something about extreme sports communities. You need to prove your way in, and until you do, you’re simply an outsider.

Jeff Skydiving

Well, the time finally arrived for me to suit up and jump into the utterly tiny Cessna aircraft that would take us up to 10,000 feet. Four of us plus the pilot jammed into the cramped quarters and up we went. I was going up with Dave Williamson who would be my tandem jump master and a couple of thirty year olds who had over 700 jumps between them. Over the din of the engine and the wind, we chatted about what it was going to be like, what you can see from that height and how amazing it would be. With each step closer to making the actual jump, I noticed people became friendlier and more accepting. The moment finally arrived when we hit our altitude and the door was swung open. I wriggled free of the confines of the plane, looked down at a valley patchwork of farmers fields two miles below me and flipped out of the plane, attached to Dave via harness. As the earth sped closer, my mouth was dry, my eyes were watering from the wind and my hands were freezing and I was having the time of my life. When the chute was pulled we were yanked skyward and our progress slowed considerably. We gently floated to an amazingly soft landing on pretty much the exact spot we had boarded from.

With adrenalin pumping, I got unhooked and out of my flight suit and conehead helmet. My kids ran over to greet me and I gave them all a huge hug. What happened next astonished me though: many of the people who had previously ignored me came rushing up to shake hands and pat me on the back. That simple act of jumping out of a plane, which took absolutely no skill on my part, just a bit of balls; had instantly made me a member of their tribe. As a social media geek, and a reader of Seth, I found this interaction to be really interesting.

How can we, as companies, schools and organizations be inclusive to the extent that we’re not making people uncomfortable about joining us? Is it good to limit membership to those that share a similar interest and have already participated in the activity at hand? As we build intentional communities online and offline, how important is that barrier to entry that makes you feel more like you’re part of something once you’ve crossed the threshold? How can we structure this so that people feel welcome even before they’ve made the leap to join?

I’m not sure, but I look forward to hearing your thoughts about this.

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